Earth News Journal 11: China Air Pollution

Chinese government officials are seeking to minimize the threat of pollution in major cities, according to New York Times’ Edward Wong.

For several years, air pollution has been a tremendous issue in densely populated Chinese cities – these areas have some of the worst air pollution in the world.

With fine particulate matter concentrations dramatically rising above exposure limits, troves of civilians are dying from thick, smog-clogged air. In one report, 1.2 million premature deaths were recorded in China for the year 2010, due in part to critical levels of outdoor pollution.

Greenpeace East Asia and several other international, ecological organizations have pressured the Chinese government for years, persuading them to enact laws that restrict the onset of more pollution.

On September 12, the State Council, China’s cabinet, announced its revolutionary plan to curb air pollution. New regulations will tighten yearly coal-burning factory emissions, while all vehicles labeled high-polluted in 2005 must be removed from roads by the end of 2015.

Nevertheless, environmental advocates are concerned this agenda will not protect society from the potential hazards of persistent pollution. Ma Jun, a prominent environmental advocate, believes that “if China does not upgrade its coal-dependent industries, coal consumption can never be curbed.” Similarly, Huang Wei thinks that these new standards have “fallen short of our expectations.”

This ambitious plan is China’s most direct attempt to provide a solution to the air pollution problem, but whether or not the plan will actually remove the threat of pollution remains debatable.

Reflection

I find it quite disheartening that the Chinese people remain in such a clogged, polluted environment. To have cities shrouded in a layer of thick smog, harming the health of its citizens, seems like an undesirable and unwelcome nuisance. China is one of the most compacted countries on Earth, in terms of its population density; therefore, the location of such an issue as critical air pollution is not surprising. However, I was horrified by the number of reported deaths caused in part by dangerous levels of pollutants in the lower troposphere. How could China have refused to act on such hazardous air-level concentrations for so long? Why haven’t they enacted laws before, prohibiting major fossil fuel consumption, now that the public has to walk around with gas masks and face wraps on their heads? Perhaps, China has been focused on maintaining its already over-populated civilization, providing resources to the countless families in desperate need of service. China has also become a booming economic competitor in the world market over recent years – maybe they spent more time developing the latest technologies rather than preserving the environment. But now that their people are tragically suffocating from harmful pollutants, the Chinese government is looking to curb pollution production. My sincerest hope is that China develops a rapid plan of attack, in order to exterminate its current dependence on coal as an energy source. China has provided the United States with an example on how not to let fossil fuels dictate human life, for the exploitation of nonrenewable resources can be, in fact, quite deadly. 

Wong, Edward. “China’s Plan to Curb Air Pollution Sets Limits on Coal Use and Vehicles.” The New York Times. N.p., 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.

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